IRR News (20 March – 2 April 2019)
Institute of Race Relations weekly digest - Against Racism, for Social Justice
Dear IRR News subscriber,
Amidst the chaos of Brexit, Home Secretary Sajid Javid found time to announce a plan to relax restrictions on the use of section 60 of the 1994 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) so as to make it easier for police to stop and search anyone in a specific area if serious violence is anticipated. The new rules are targeted at the seven urban police force areas, where the overwhelming majority of the black population in this country lives, and are part of a wider Home Office strategy on serious youth violence and knife crime. The Home Office has also just launched an eight-week consultation on a proposal to impose a legal duty on public sector organisations to cooperate in multi-agency initiatives to combat knife crime, including through data sharing. Such a duty could indirectly require doctors, teachers and other public sector workers to identify children at risk of being involved in knife crime to partner agencies, including the police. (See our calendar on anti-racism and social justice issues.)
For all the talk of moving towards a supposedly different ‘public health’ approach to knife crime, both proposals, when coupled with the government’s plan to introduce a new ASBO-type knife crime prevention order that could see kids as young as 12 sent to jail, show that the same discredited law and order approach is behind the new initiatives. The government is showing bad faith, manipulating genuine fears about young people’s safety, while attempting to define ‘public health’ in its own narrow law and order terms. Its new public order duty is likely to be just as unpopular and contested as the Prevent duty of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 on specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.
Historically, s.60 has mainly been justified as necessary to combat knife and other violent crime within urban areas, usually those with a high concentration of young black people. Section 60 is the source of highly unequal treatment of black people, as they are over twenty times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people under it, with only a tiny minority subsequently arrested and then for minor crimes such as low level drug possession.
This week on IRR News, Joseph Maggs brings news of a fascinating grassroots educational history project in east London looking at frictions between police and young Asian and African-Caribbean people in the 1970s and ‘80s. The ‘Fighting Sus’ project looks at the use and resistance to Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act – the SUS laws, as they were known then. What’s so important about the ‘Fighting Sus’ project, Joseph writes, is the fact that the views (and creative talents) of young BAME people, ‘so often talked about – as victims or as problems’ are put to the fore.
Twenty-one months after the Grenfell residential tower fire in which seventy-two people perished, IRR Chair Colin Prescod places the demands of the Grenfell community at the heart of his appraisal of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission’s timely investigation into the Grenfell residents’ access to services and support in the period before and after the 2017 fire.
And finally, the April issue of Race & Class, which reveals the unique forms of resistance that are responding to new colonialisms worldwide, has now been published. Read a press release and order a copy here.
IRR News Team